Using genetic data to understand past human interactions with biodiversity

Te Papa researchers: Lara Shepherd and Isaac Te Awa

This research uses genetic techniques to provide insight into New Zealand’s cultural past. Our research findings provide new knowledge on interactions between Māori iwi by determining the translocation pathways of cultivated plant species.

We are also using DNA to examine the relationships between weaving cultivars of harakeke and distinguish between plant species used to make tapa (barkcloth) in the Pacific region.

Toromiro (Sophora toromiro). Photo by Rachel Hockridge. Te Papa

Whau (Entelea arborescens). Photo by Lara Shepherd. Te Papa

Main collaborators: Rob Smissen, Sue Scheele (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research), Peter Lockhart, Nick Roskruge (Massey University), Catherine Smith (University of Otago), Matt Ryan (Victoria University of Wellington), Peter de Lange (Unitec).

Funding: Marsden Fund, Te Papa Foundation, and Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.

Representative publications:

Shepherd LD, Scheele SM, Te Awa I, Smissen RD. 2022. ddRADseq reveals the relationships of harakeke and wharariki (Phormium species, Asphodelaceae) and selected weaving cultivars in Aotearoa New Zealand. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 201 (2): 198-214.

Rawlence NJ, Verry AJF, Greig K, Maxwell JJ, Shepherd LD, Walter R. 2022. Reconstructing the Impact of Humans on Aotearoa New Zealand's Biodiversity. Historical Ecology: Learning from the Past to Understand the Present and Forecast the Future of Ecosystems. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pg 233-245.

Shepherd LD, M Campbell M. 2021. Ancient DNA analysis of an archaeological assemblage of Chondrichthyes vertebrae from South Auckland, New Zealand. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 36: 102830.

More about the project

Please support this important DNA research with a donation – any amount is appreciated.